What is a lady?

In England, a lady was a woman who was married to a lord. Thus over the years, the term has become a polite way of addressing woman, such as "The nice lady at the book store helped me find a good Bible." It's complement is calling a man a gentleman. Use of the term "lady" says you view the woman as being a cut above the average everyday woman.

In the Bible the idea of a lady is captured in the concept of "excellence" or "virtuous," which means a woman who brings honor or a good reputation to her husband. The Hebrew word is chayil, which literally means "power or strength," and is translated as "wealth, army, able, valiant, valour, virtuous, worthily, strong, might, power, substance, and riches." Such a term was used for women of nobility, but the true virtuous woman is found in the type of life she lives.

Ruth was described as a virtuous woman (Ruth 3:11), as was Boaz, her eventual husband (Ruth 2:1). Such women are describe at length in Proverbs 31:10-31. "An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones" (Proverbs 12:4).

In the New Testament, the word doxa serves a similar function. Doxa means "glory, dignity, honor, or worship. "For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man" (I Corinthians 11:7). Also the word protos, which means "chief, leading, or first," as in Acts 17:4; and the word euschemon, which means "noble in rank, comely, honorable," as in Acts 13:50; 17:12. Paul urges women to serve the Lord in a comely, proper, or honorable fashion (I Corinthians 7:34-35).

"Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. Do not let your adornment be merely outward--arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel-- rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror" (1 Peter 3:1-6).

See also:

Questions and Answers regarding Terminology in the Bible
Questions and Answers regarding Women